Oklahoma insurance regulators have filed suit against two New York financiers who took control of a failed Oklahoma insurance company, saying the pair and others infused it with allegedly worthless assets and used it as a vehicle through which to enrich themselves.
In addition to Scott Hartman and Andrew Scherr, several other former officers and directors of Red Rock Insurance Co., which is in liquidation, have been named in the lawsuit brought by Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak, as receiver for Red Rock.
The suit claims that the actions of Hartman and Scherr, along with those of the other named defendants – Lisa Bays, Michael Beasley and Mark Krienke – caused Red Rock’s asset value to drop by more than $23 million.
In 2013, Hartman and Scherr, through their financial services holding company, Foster Jennings Inc., bought the bankrupt Oklahoma insurer, BancInsure, which was later re-named Red Rock Insurance. The purchase was based on the representation that they would invest some $30 million in capital into the company.
BancInsure had specialized in insuring community banks. It suffered big losses during the economic downturn that began in 2008, which depleted its surplus. At the time of the Foster Jennings purchase, BancInsure was in danger of being taken over by regulators.
Commissioner Doak wrote in a May 2015 email to Insurance Journal that the department at the time had viewed the acquisition as an opportunity to avoid putting BancInsure in receivership.
“The Department followed the statutory procedure for approval of insurance company acquisitions in compliance with NAIC and Oklahoma standards,” Doak said.
“Following a public hearing, the acquisition was conditionally approved based on submitted documents and testimony under oath. A key condition to approval was the infusion of approximately $30 million dollars in liquid assets by Foster Jennings,” he said.
The bulk of those supposedly liquid assets were ultimately found to be bogus by regulators. Red Rock was placed in liquidation in August 2014.
Nestor Romero, assistant receiver for the Red Rock liquidation, told Insurance Journal last May that while Foster Jennings represented the assets as being marketable securities, both state and federal insurance regulators found those assets and a variety of other investments – including a stamp collection that was supposedly worth $40 million – offered by Foster Jennings to be unsuitable.
The lawsuit, filed Jan. 29 in Oklahoma County District Court, alleges that the “wrongful conduct of these directors and/or officers … resulted in substantial monetary harm to the Company, its policyholders and creditors.”
A series of questionable actions by the directors and officers caused the company to lose at least $23.6 million in asset value, the lawsuit states. In addition, the promised capital infusion necessary to continue operations never materialized, which forced the company to be placed in liquidation, the suit alleges.
Those questionable actions, according to the lawsuit, included the payment of vastly inflated fees to Hartman and Scherr; a $610,000 investment into a virtually asset-free shell company controlled by Hartman and Sherr; the provision of nearly $4.7 million in unsecured loans at high interest rates “to out-of-state entities and individuals;” and the purchase by Red Rock of property in Pennsylvania, a transaction through which Hartman and Scherr’s company, Foster Jennings, acquired joint ownership at no expense.
The suit also states that “Red Rock’s directors and/or officers entered into numerous reinsurance treaties that were not beneficial to the Company and failed to appropriately transfer risk to the reinsurer consistent with industry standards.”
The lawsuit asks for punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs in addition to any actual damages incurred by the actions of the named defendants.
A Wall Street Journal article in April 2015 noted Hartman’s and Scherr’s business and financial ties to former New York financier Alexander Chatfield Burns and his failed private equity firm/insurance empire, Southport Lane Management LLC. While the WSJ pointed out that Burns had no connection to Red Rock and its demise, Burns’ Southport Lane firm had included two failed insurance companies from the South Central region –Texas-based Dallas National and Louisiana-headquartered Imperial Fire & Casualty.
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